Effectiveness of Helicopter versus Ground Ambulance Services for Interfacility Transport

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Helicopters provide rapid interfacility transport, but the effect on patients is largely unknown.


Patients requested to be transported between facilities by helicopter were followed prospectively to determine survival, disability, health status, and health care utilization. A total of 1,234 patients were transported by the primary aeromedical company; 153 patients were transported by ground and 25 patients were transported by other aeromedical services because of weather or unavailability of aircraft.


There were no differences at 30 days for survivors in disability, health status, or health care utilization. Nineteen percent of helicopter-transported patients died compared with 15% of those transported by ground (p = 0.21).


The patients transported by helicopter did not have improved outcomes compared with patients transported by ground. These data argue against a large advantage of helicopters for interfacility transport. A randomized trial is needed to address these issues conclusively.

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